The Chicago Police Department has tightened its policy on Taser use to discourage officers from shocking people who are running away or are otherwise vulnerable to injury, reports the Chicago Tribune. The change was ordered in October, six weeks after a Tribune story pointed out that previous rule changes the department had announced on Taser use did not specifically ban shocking people who simply run away and pose no serious threat. That prohibition has been adopted by other large police departments and endorsed by reform advocates and use-of-force experts who note that Taser shocks can cause people to fall and sustain devastating head injuries.
Facing a controversy sparked by officers’ use of force, Superintendent Eddie Johnson oversaw a sweeping overhaul of the department’s policies and introduced the new rules in May. Experts criticized the Taser policy as too permissive, while a police union argued the department didn’t have the right to change the rules without collective bargaining. But five months after the new rules were unveiled, the department issued a Taser policy containing a lengthy revision. The order now includes a section that advises officers not to shock people who run away, are intoxicated or could fall and suffer a head injury, among other things. The new language stops short of firmly banning Taser uses under those circumstances but says officers should avoid such uses “when practicable.” Chicago police have increasingly embraced Tasers as an alternative to shooting people. The department has increased its stock of Tasers from 745 in 2015 to about 4,000 now and plans to buy about 3,000 more in the near future.